Audi Sport could rely more heavily on its local resources from Melbourne Performance Centre for the manufacturer’s entry in the rescheduled Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, although its customer racing boss is hopeful the race won’t turn into an “Audi Cup.”
The Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season opener, which has been rescheduled for the third time, is now slated to take place on May 13-15, amid a busy month of racing in Europe that includes both the Nürburgring 24 Qualifying Race and the German endurance classic itself.
Chris Reinke, the Head of Audi Sport customer racing, said it’s too early to see how the manufacturer will tackle the opening IGTC round, which currently has a direct clash with the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup round at Magny-Cours as well as European Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races that same weekend.
“I have to give my big respect to Stephane [Ratel] and his organization that he continues trying to keep this Intercontinental [GT Challenge] flying with all of the challenges that are given to him through the COVID situation,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“Especially the Intercontinental travels and activities are the challenging ones. He keeps on pushing for it and that’s great.
“I think it was without an option that you had to move [Bathurst] to the way it was.
“Obviously if you move something into the second quarter of the year where a lot of series start [in Europe], it’s usually a packed calendar.
“Plus the big events for us — Nürburgring  and Spa  happens.
“In talking about a new date for Bathurst, which is the weekend after the Nürburgring Quali race and two weekends before the [Nürburgring] 24 race and then you have all of the clashes with other series, it’s challenging.
“We have to see how we’ll attack it. To be honest, we’ve all learned in COVID that we have to be more spontaneous.”
Reinke said that drivers and team/manufacturer staff competing in the Nürburgring 24 Qualifying Race would physically not be able to make it to the 12-hour due to the travel time and current quarantine measures imposed by Australian authorities.
“These current COVID protocols [in Australia], we cannot do it; none of us,” he said.
“If you are the [Nürburgring] Quali race, you won’t make it in time for the [Bathurst 12H] race because you have to go into quarantine the moment you get into Australia.
“That has to be overcome but at the same time we have to be realistic from the perspective that if the COVID situation is as-is, that’s what the quarantine situation is based on in Australia… Probably the race won’t happen.
“It’s theoretical thinking right now.”
Audi is likely the best-equipped GT3 manufacturer to rely entirely on its local partner, should international teams and factory drivers not be able to undertake the race, although Reinke cautioned that other manufacturers may not have that same luxury.
“From Audi’s perspective we have a super strong partner in Melbourne Performance Centre and Audi Sport customer racing Australia,” he said.
“Therefore we have a full infrastructure, we have cars and experts in Australia. We always have the possibility, even with the intensity of the [European] season that we have, to steer it more via Australia, this particular race.
“It’s to be questioned if all manufacturers have a similar situation to overcome the challenges of all these calendar clashes around this new date.
“I see a challenge but I think we have the possibility to overcome it.
“But obviously it’s important that there’s a [quality grid]. If Audi makes it there, it doesn’t help us. We want to be challenged by competition and other brands. We don’t want to do an Audi Cup.
“And we don’t need a Kyalami 2020 again.”
While the originally announced Bathurst date of March 18-20, which had a direct clash with the ‘Super Sebring’ event, came under attack from a number of GT3 manufacturers, Reinke said they are past the point of pushing for another date change given the inevitability of it conflicting with another race in an already packed schedule.
“I think it’s less about accurate planning rather accurate reaction to the situation,” Reinke said. “We transformed into that and that’s where I see our role.
“Therefore I’m stepping back from criticizing the [new] date of Bathurst, for example.
“I know what kind of challenge Stephane is under and he continues to come up with suggestions. There are odds against it but as you push for the venue to happen, we’ll push our very best to support it.
“At the end, it’s in our own interests that the series not only survives but stays strong and continues to grow.”